Underneath the hot lights of Network News One’s flagship studio in New York City, anchorwoman Natalie Brock smiled into the camera as she read the latest copy.
“Witnesses on the scene report the Dalai Lama will be fine as long as he pours a bucket of ice down his pants, drinks three beers, and calls his doctor in the morning. The product of the day to stay away from is Bickerstaff Pretzels. A new scientific study indicates that eating just one bag of these salty treats will give you inoperable ear cancer. So, if you don’t want your ear filled with cancer, go ahead and throw away any bags of Bickerstaff pretzels you have lying around the house right now, and we’ll fill you in on further details after sports and weather. For Network News One, I’m America’s favorite anchorwoman, Natalie Brock.”
Natalie maintained her focus on the camera until her producer, a tall, skinny, bespectacled doofus by the name of Dan Motley, shouted, “Clear!”
Various members of the production team milled about the set as Natalie stood up and removed the microphone from the lapel of her fashionable black blazer. “Hey guys? Can I get a cup of coffee over here? Hello! Dan!”
Dan picked his head up from his clipboard and faced the newswoman. “What’s up, boss?”
“Dan-o,” Natalie said. “I try really hard not to play the feminist card…”
“But you’re about to, aren’t you?” Dan asked.
“No,” Natalie said as she picked up an empty ceramic mug emblazoned with the NN1 logo. “However, I’d like to point out that I’m on camera anywhere between eight to twelve hours a day, bare minimum and thus, I don’t really think it’s too much to ask for prompt caffeine fix deliveries.”
“You’re right,” Dan said. “It’s not too much to ask at all.”
“Are you sure?” Natalie asked. “Because what I’m getting at is, I highly doubt Kurt Manley’s cup ever went dry, so if Kurt wasn’t treated this way but I am, then I can only conclude.”
“It’s not because you’re a woman,” Dan said.
“It isn’t?” Natalie asked.
“No,” Dan said. “It’s because you’re too nice to the interns. Walk with me.”
Natalie followed Dan into a nearby breakroom where three college age interns sat around, playing games on their phones and texting each other. That’s right. They were literally texting each other, rather than opting to talk to each other. Their names were Spencer, Maya, and Cody, respectively.
“These three are the lowest of the low,” Dan said. “Literally, the one and only job they are trusted with here is to fetch coffee, snacks, and meals.”
“And they’re playing, what, Sweetie Smash?” Natalie asked.
“They haven’t been properly motivated,” Dan said.
“Are you kidding me?” Natalie asked. “Hey, kids! Hello! Heads up from the cell phones, please!”
“Not good enough,” Dan said. “You’re being too nice to them.”
“Excuse me?” Natalie asked.
“Kurt used to yell at the interns,” Dan said. “He’d hurl all kinds of stomach churning obscenities at them, tell them things like…uh…I don’t want to say it.”
“Just say it,” Natalie said.
Dan cleared his throat. His face turned red. “He’d say things like, uh, ‘Hey, you fucking millennial puke bags, if my coffee cup ever goes empty, I’m going to butt rape all of your mothers with the handle of the Hammer of Thor and then I’ll cut off your fathers’ dicks with a rusty…”
Natalie nodded. “I get the picture.”
“You’ve created a much more positive work environment around here, Natalie,” Dan said.
“I’m happy to here that,” Natalie said.
“It’s true,” Dan said. “The overall staff suicide rate is down by eighty-percent, sexual harassment lawsuits are down ninety-percent and me personally? My wife is a lot happier now that I don’t go home every night and curl up into the fetal position and cry over the latest Kurt Manley rage fit.”
“I prefer positive reinforcement over negative,” Natalie said.
“Cool,” Dan replied. “See, the thing is, that’s not going to work with these three because they make diddily squat.”
“They’re unpaid?” Natalie asked.
“They’re supposedly paid with experience,” Dan said.
Natalie raised a quizzical brow. “Which means?”
“They get college credit to fetch drinks and snacks,” Dan said.
“OK,” Natalie said. “That sucks for them but surely, being able to put down that you were an NN1 intern on your resume…”
“Means literally nothing,” Dan said. “Maybe back in the day when there were only a handful of channels it meant something but today, there are so many news sources out there competing for a limited audience that outlets across the board are cutting back, firing journalists left and right. All things considered, OJ Simpson will probably be elected Pope before any of these kids gets a job in the news business that pays a living wage.”
“It’s that bad out there?” Natalie asked.
“And how,” Dan said.
“So…I should be meaner?” Natalie asked.
“With these three at least,” Dan said. “The people who get paid actual money love you and are trying their best to keep you happy.”
“Well,” Natalie said. “That’s something.”
The anchorwoman approached the trio of interns. “Hey guys…”
“Meaner,” Dan said.
“Right,” Natalie said. “Hey, um…you little jerks…”
“Meaner,” Dan said.
“Hey!” Natalie said. “Dummies! This cup had better be…”
Natalie shook her head. “Screw it. This isn’t me. I’ll just fetch my own brew.”
“Suit yourself,” Dan said as he walked away.
Natalie walked over to the coffee machine and was about to pour herself a cup when a familiar voice boomed through the room. “Listen up, you little shitbags! This woman is Natalie Brock, a badass bitch who smashes the glass ceiling of this fucked up industry each and every day and you will give her the respect she deserves!”
All three interns dropped their phones and looked up. Natalie turned around to find a slender, well-built man in his early fifties, his hair dyed a dark brown, save for a gray spot around each temple. He wore a snazzy, designer suit, complete with a red pocket square.
“This woman is the alpha and the omega!” the man barked. “She is your goddess, your world, and your entire reason for being and if her cup is not regularly replenished with piping hot black coffee during every commercial break, then she will use all her power at her disposal to carve up every last person you ever loved or cared about with Poseidon’s Trident and I swear, by the edge of Excalibur, the sword once wielded by the legendary King Arthur himself, that all of the pieces will be scooped up into glass jars that you will be forced to carry for the rest of your lives to remind you of your incompetence!”
Spencer grabbed Natalie’s cup. “Coming right up, Miss Brock.”
“Thank you,” Natalie said to the intern before turning to the man. “Holy shit, Walter. Was that really necessary?”
“It was,” Walter said as he held out his arm. “Lunch, my lady?”
Natalie accepted the gesture, locking her arm around Walter’s. “I could eat.”